When families relocate to a new area, it can be stressful learning where everything is, making new friends, and finding all the resources needed for the family. In the case of raising children with social challenges, learning disabilities, or other special needs, finding beneficial resources for them are particularly important, especially for kids entering their teen and young adult years as their interests are growing beyond the walls of their family home. Parents can find themselves scrambling to locate resources for teens suitable for their child’s unique circumstances.
Teens With Out-Of-The-Box Needs
Whether children have autism, ADHD, Asperger’s, Down Syndrome, or even a physical disability, our once little kids, who had everything they needed at home, are starting to want to stretch their wings in their own way. Our kids have the same desires as anyone else, they just see the world differently than the majority.
Sometimes they need a specific type of environment suited to their parameters, or other times, interacting with peers who do not have social, intellectual, or physical barriers is appropriate and healthy.
I’m the parent of a child with Asperger’s and I understand how a high-functioning child can sometimes adapt to certain situations, but at the same time, needs options that fit within his unique interests and idiosyncrasies.
Still, other teens need greater support.
No matter the depth of the need or barrier, most of these kids do not see themselves as a person with “special needs”. They all have the perception that they are the same as everyone else – regular kids looking for opportunities to explore their gifts, talents, and interests. And they are right!
Finding Resources for Teens
As a result, finding programs or resources for teens that are engaging, social, and even helpful in their road to independence can be frustrating. Maybe you or someone you know has a teen or young adult with special needs but are not sure where to look for suitable options.
Listed below are several ideas and contacts to at least get you started finding the right fit for your teen. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but no matter where you start, each one can be a stepping stone to discovering a good solution for your family.
Many families with special needs children choose to homeschool. As a result, I’ve included a local resource if that is your situation. Colorado Springs has a very large, active homeschool community. The school districts are very homeschool-friendly as well. It makes for a win-win situation if you are thinking of moving here and wondering what there is for you as a homeschooler.
HIGH COUNTRY EDUCATORS: A benefit of the homeschool program is that the families are friendly and adaptive for children and teens with special needs. A good place to start is to get in contact with High Country Educators. They are the largest co-op of homeschool families – meaning their resources and connections are vast. They offer a support group and have classes on just about any subject or hobby you can think of.
While not specifically designed for special-needs individuals, this may be a non-threatening, smaller environment to explore an interest or take a class.
PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT
As a parent, this became one of my favorite resources for my son. Again, there was not anything specifically for a special needs child, but they have a variety of classes or activities for teens that may be of interest. For example, they have a writing club that meets every couple of weeks. It’s a small group and the kids get to exercise their imaginations without fear of criticism or grades. It is writing for fun and enjoyment in a non-threatening environment (they even have pizza days!). The library also had computer classes, coding groups, a 3-D printer…so many options!
Hands down, my favorite resource is the Pikes Peak Library District. Obviously, this is more for high-functioning teens, but it’s worth taking a look. You never know. You might find a perfect fit for your child.
If your special-needs teen enjoys being active, then check out our local Special Olympics teams! They are amazing. Tennis, snowboarding, skiing, and more. All types of kids from physical limitations to social, mental, or emotional barriers. No matter their ability or expertise, it is a fun, encouraging atmosphere for teens and parents alike.
Work Training & Development
There are two organizations I learned about recently: Goodwill Possibilities and the School To Work Alliance Program (aka SWAP). I am so grateful they are available to us and our kids here in Colorado Springs!
GOODWILL POSSIBILITIES: One of the only programs of its kind in the nation. Discover Goodwill of Southern Colorado offers a multitude of resources for job placement, life-enhancing skills, and day activities. They focus more on individuals ready to be on their own, or need a place to go during the day. A town square built within their facility gives participants the opportunity to “practice” life skills and build their confidence. There are so many options available. You must check it out and even schedule a tour!
SCHOOL-TO-WORK ALLIANCE: A national program through the Department of Labor, the School-To-Work Alliance (otherwise known as SWAP), operates through the school districts, specifically, for teens that may have barriers to employment. If your teen or young adult has a mild to moderate disability, SWAP is dedicated to coming alongside your child to discover and develop their passions, and even partner with local businesses. This gives them experience, confidence, skill sets, and opportunities many of us would never have. They understand the unique needs of each individual child. It’s an amazing program that I highly recommend for your young teen!
TRE offers the widest options from Family Respite resources to child activities, autism resources, financial assistance and more.
Specifically, for those persons with Autism, the Alpine Autism Center provides training, rehabilitation, and day programs.
I hope this information has been helpful and I wish you all the best for your family!